Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Victorian Kitchen Revival – Part 2

Totally restoring Laura’s kitchen is such a deliciously satisfying challenge. One can tell a lot about a household from its kitchen. Nesters will often hang their pots and pans on a pot rack, “feminize” the décor, and cook with a crockpot while a freer spirit might experiment with the latest gadgets, install ultramodern décor elements, and cook meals using recipes from exotic cookbooks.

In Laura’s day during the late 19th century into early 20th century, this area was always busy and as expected, almost always in the back part of the house away from the grander rooms. Preparing food and cleaning up afterwards made a mess, was hot, had odors and were to be shielded from public view; families would often congregate around the kitchen stove on cold nights. In addition to its main purposes of cooking, eating, cleaning, and food storage, the kitchen might also be a sleeping room for a servant or double as a place to do laundry.

Upon inspection of Laura’s house, the laundry would have been done in the basement or on the back porch adjacent to the kitchen. Use of the back porch in this way would likely have caused the household to protect it from prying eyes with wooden lattice panels, as shown in the photo below.

Not all porches were for lounging and watching the world go by.
"Victorian Style: Classical Homes of North America"
by Cheri Y. Gay.

In all, the crowded Victorian kitchen was as a testament to all of its various functions.

In our last kitchen post, we gutted the kitchen walls. Since then, those open and newly insulated walls have been covered with drywall and plaster.

Remember this?

Here’s what this area looks like now…

Here’s a view of the corner directly diagonal from this one, before and after…


And after

Remember that extended pantry?

It is now almost ready to store containers of canned foods, food tins, etc., as was its intent.

Put in some shelves and a set of moldings and a door,
and we’ll have this nailed.

We are now down to painting the walls, plastering and painting the ceiling, and refinishing the moldings and the wooden floor. Here’s Nick painting the walls adjacent to that pantry.

Not a bad first coat by someone who’s never painted a kitchen wall before…

This color might be a tad too dark. The second coat will be
more like the
original wall color which was a chalkboard green.
Nevertheless, we liked
the contrast between this color
and the brick wall so much, we intend to keep the brick exposed.

That bathroom adjacent to the kitchen gets the same treatment, only in a rich curry yellow…

Actually, we felt this color was a tad too intense.
Being in this room
felt claustrophobic, like being in a
cell purposely painted with
crusty mustard in order
to overwhelm its occupant.
The next go round will see
this room a lighter, cheerier lemon or butter color.

So the question still begs – what was Nick Kosciuk doing painting our kitchen? We invited Nick to be our artist for two portraits of Laura, one of her as Becky Thatcher and one of her in her mature years when she occupied this house until her death in 1928. We’ve been collecting Nick’s paintings over the years and felt he was the best artist for “Becky Thatcher” which now hangs in the Mark Twain Museum (much more on this in a later post).

Nick and his model Paige Cummins in front of “Becky Thatcher”.

When we invited Nick over for the unveiling of his Becky Thatcher painting last month, we (us two resurrectors, Ron our guy, his son and his nephew) were well into restoring the exterior and interior of the house. The atmosphere was feverish and infectious with enthusiasm, so naturally anyone would want to pitch in, Nick included.

In our next post, we will discuss how we intend to furnish the kitchen. We will show you sample kitchens we're using as our base and we'll even share some old family recipes dating from late 19th century to early 20th century Hannibal.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

“You Need to Post to Your Blog!”

You are correct dear reader. I could tell you about how I am buried in work up to my eyeballs, etc., but I do need to luxuriate in a little downtime and pursue one of our most favorite things to do – work on, document and promote the Laura Hawkins House.

So much has happened to “Laura” since we last posted. Among them are dry-walling all rooms needing it, stripping ineptly chosen wallpaper, painting a few rooms in luscious Victorian colors, scraping and painting the house exterior, launching a Laura look-alike model search, commissioning paintings by Nick Kosciuk (our Becky Thatcher and Laura Hawkins artist), engaging in adventurers with fellow Twain enthusiasts Dave Thomson and Cindy Lovell, donating a painting to the Mark Twain Museum, and being attacked by a huge swarm of wasps. Whew!

These things will unfold in future blogs. First, I want to first tell you about a couple of readers who showed up on our doorsteps asking us to post…

As we worked on Laura’s exterior last month (with our team of Ron et al), Jim and Renee paid a visit to our worksite. Having traveled the country, they greeted us with “You need to post to your blog!” Imagine our surprise as we listened to their story of their travel from Maine and eventually to California, and having decided to veer 100 miles off-course to make a stop in Hannibal.

Jim Buehner, traveler, restorer and boat shop owner.

Renee Dawson, on Campobello Island in New Brunswick, Canada
(across the Lubec Narrows in Maine),
varnishing her and Jim’s boat this month.

We were so happy to learn of having loyal followers, I proceeded to give Jim and Renee the grand tour on the progress on “Laura” as well as the progress on our other house next door.

Being a fellow blogger and restoration enthusiast, Jim directed me to his website showing the restoration of the McCurdy Smokehouse complex in Lubec, Maine...
For more information, access:
Notice the lovely landscaping? The complex was at one time a herring smoking center in an industry that employed hundreds of men, women and children in its factories back in the 1800’s, with business tapering off as the 20th century matured. In the McCurdy buildings (named for Arthur McCurdy who bought the complex in 1950’s), herring was hung high in the rafters and slowly smoked for 6-7 weeks. The time and care given to these delicacies (once a staple of 18th to19th century plantation culture) boggles one’s mind considering that modern fish processors allot only 1-5 days to cold-smoking herring.

Today, McCurdy’s Herring Smokehouse is an historic site, sharing its heritage of a now-lost traditional fishery industry. Kudos to you Jim and Renee for taking on such an enormous project.

We will highlight the latest developments on Laura’s kitchen in our next post coming your way within a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, check out Laura’s exterior thus far…

No longer the ugly green thing, doesn’t Laura look like a doll’s house
plopped down in the middle of the neighborhood?

Here’s another view looking on the south side…

Using ivory and white colors makes Laura
look as if she's grown in size.
Who’s this guy painting our kitchen????
It’s none other than nationally known artist Nick Kosciuk.
Read our next blog post to find out why he’s painting our kitchen.